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Torqumada286

Tracking down a short

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I been having similar issues (first year of issues) and been asking on this thread http://forums.lightorama.com/index.php?/topic/25277-weather-causing-gfis-to-trip-out/ but when I read this topic; you guys almost described my setup. Long story short every time it rains the GFI trips (lots of run…) got it narrow down to the mini trees (6 mini trees with 300 lights each); I am not sure but I think only 1 tree is giving the problem unless like everyone says, a little bit of current leak here and there adds up and therefore is not just one but all 6 of them. Each light set by itself is fine; any combination of 2 is fine; it is when I have all 3 lights sets plugged in that trips the GFI.

The lights are brand new (one would expect to not be damaged). Here are some pictures on how I have my mini trees setup. As you can see all the plugs point down to keep the water dripping out and the end plus are the same. Also the plugs are off the ground; the only thing touching the ground is the mini tree itself (wire structure). I painted mine for looks more than anything else as I am sure paint is not going to stop the current from passing. The end of the trees (bottom part) is actually pushed in to the earth about 1 to 1.5 inches plus I also have aluminum camping stakes (I get quite a bit of wind current between my house and the neighbors; also the ground is not completely flat). The trees aren’t going anywhere unless there is a tornado. Reading this topic made me realize I might be grounding my trees but if the lights strings are not damaged can the current leak still occur?

I was getting ready to go to the store to buy new lights (again) but I am thinking maybe I should just get the trees off the ground (either pvc plugs or wood blocks for the legs) just to break the connection with the ground and see what happens.

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Why not just spray the bottom half of the tomato cage with Plastickote or bedliner spray you can buy in a can.

Thomas

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In many displays, it is not one element that causes a GFCI trip, but several that make it trip when they are turned on at the same time. I finally bit the bullet and bought this tester to help me narrow the problem down:

1.0x0.jpg

Using this, I found that one group of lights on a bush was leaking 2.5 mA. (5mA is the threshold for a typical GFCI.) My 12v RGB ribbons were leaking another 1.8 mA, probably because the plastic container that houses the power supply did not have enough ventilation. I fixed those two problems, and now we'll see if the show runs tonight.

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Not to throw a wet towel on this discussion, but I see a problem with insulating the tomato cage from ground. Yes, it will keep the GFCI from tripping, but it can create a safety issue. Assuming an actual fault resulting in a connection between a wire and the metal of the tomato cage, and with the cage insulated from ground, you now have an energized tomato cage. If someone touches the cage and is reasonably grounded, you just created a current path between the energized cage and ground through the person. Granted that should then trip the GFCI. This is not an issue if the situation is only capacitive coupling from many different sources that add up to enough leakage to trip the GFCI, but in the event of an actual insulation fault resulting in the cage energized, a safety problem is created.

The big problem is that with the cage insulated, you will NOT get a GFCI trip until someone completes the path from cage to ground. You could have energized cages and never know it until someone gets across it to ground.

Makes me quite happy that everything in the yard is running on DC through isolated power supplies. We have gotten quite a bit of rain this month and no problems here from it :) .

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K6CCC, Jim,

One is kind of in between a rock and a hard place. Damned if you do and Damned if you dont. If, and just if the insulation actually cracks and energizes the wire cage. Then all of my faith would be that the GFI does its job. But one is more likely to remove the GFI if I cant get my lights to work at all cause of the leaks (capacitive). I am going to elect to have my tomato cages raised above ground and rely on the GFI. I mean thats why we have this GFI, right? Got to draw the line somewhere.

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Got that right M-P!

Like I said, glad everything I am running is on 5 or 12V DC...

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Hey, so whats with the 1 8 ch and 2 16 ch A.C. controllers in your tag, all about? ;) BTW impressive list for your display.

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I bought the two 16 channel AC controllers used early on without having a definite use for them (it was a good deal from LOR partner here on the forum). I am using 3 channels on one of them for 3 can lights in the ceiling of the bay window in the front of my house. Next year I might use some channels for stuff on the roof (both controllers are mounted inside my attic). When I get inspired to find the wires, the front porch light will also get hooked into one of them. The 8 channel board will be mounted in my garage and used for 2 porch type wall lights on the front of the garage and an identical light at the end of a concrete block wall. All of these are permanent installations fed with conduit.

Keep in mind that the list is just the year round landscape lighting. Most of it is RGB, so the channel count goes up in a hurry. The LOR DC controllers are all driving RGB dumb strips in one form or another. A bunch of the 2811 smart strip is just to make my life a lot easier from a wiring standpoint - and it gives me HUGE flexibility come holiday seasons. I just did a little animation (no music) for Christmas this year with only 1,803 channels.

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After the rain here Christmas day (9th year in a row), I spent the day after Christmas doing some repair work and found that one of my spotlights has been leaking. Not only did it burn the bulb out, but the bulb became separated from the screw thread and it's fused to the fixture. I guess it wasn't as sealed as well as I thought it was. It was on the second controller that had been giving me problems. Time to get a new spotlight fixture and light. Next year, I'll have shorter power cords runs as well.

Torqumada

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Another step forward. After I removed the faulty spotlight, I had wrapped Santa in some 5mm LEDs (my preferred type) so he would be illuminated at the appropriate times. It rained last night pretty hard, but after the show had run for the evening. I went out to look at things this morning and there was plenty of standing water. I decided to fire up the show and see what happens. Everything ran fine, when it would kick off half way through the first song. I guess I found the problem. :) Still, I will work harder at weather proofing things for next year.

Torqumada

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Congratulation Torq,

I had a few minor problems my first year. Mainly I failed to mind my hot and neutral power leads going to my controllers. Had ghost illumination of my LEDs. Would not totally turn off. Was worse when it rained. Got rid of it by making sure that the hot lead went to the fuses. 2nd and 3rd year no problem. This year has been either pulling my hair or saying "Oh well". Have had random lights turn on. Got a few things to track down before my 5th year. Hope that next years is better for both of us.

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Chuck told me "Get off the GFCI plug. It will only give you headaches." Any slight variation in voltages will trip it. Breakers and fuses should protect the equipment just fine.

On the subject of water intrusion

I actually used a caulking tube of clear silicone this year and sealed around every plug as it was plugged in. Also put a simple bead on top of any open female plug ends. And put a little around where the wires enter the viper plugs. It ain't pretty but did a heck of a job keeping out the water. Not a single case of water intrusion this year and we had some rain.

Chip

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Chuck told me "Get off the GFCI plug. It will only give you headaches." Any slight variation in voltages will trip it. Breakers and fuses should protect the equipment just fine.

Chip

Chuck?

GFCIs are not there to protect your equipment, they are there to protect humans, including yourself.

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Chuck told me "Get off the GFCI plug. It will only give you headaches." Any slight variation in voltages will trip it. Breakers and fuses should protect the equipment just fine.

Bad advice. Very bad advice!! "Get off the GFCI plug. It will only give you headaches." Would you rather have a headache with finding a fault, or the headache of a dead person on your lawn? GFCI protection is required by National Electric Code on outdoor receptacles for a reason.

A circuit breaker protects from overcurrent conditions - fires.

A GFCI device protects from electric shock/electrocution - death.

If you need explanation, just let me/us know.

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. . . Chuck told me "Get off the GFCI plug. It will only give you headaches." Any slight variation in voltages will trip it. Breakers and fuses should protect the equipment just fine. . .

I agree with the others. This is very very poor advice. The GFCI is really to protect people, not the equipment. Changes in voltage will not cause it to operate - the only thing that will cause it to operate, is if the current from the "hot" lead is not returning through the "neutral". This missing current could be making one of your light structures dangerous - if someone touches it, the GFCI will trip and the person will live.

Regards,

Alan.

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